“…about the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” …” (Acts 10:3-4 ESV)
“When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. “(Acts 10:7-8 ESV)
Luke (the writer of Acts) can be pretty detailed in relating the various circumstances concerning the history and testimony of the early Church and its specific development—all the way to specific reactions by the characters involved. I wonder why God wants to show us in that kind of detail.
So, reviewing the chapter, I see Cornelius doing all he can to pursue God without knowing about the Gospel. Doing lots of good things, commendable things. And then an angel appears….and Cornelius ”stared at him in terror” the scripture says. So much for those little cute angel figures at the bookstore. Scripture describes angels a lot like that—in response to seeing angels men fell down in fear, in terror, “sore afraid…” I wonder if I would have the presence of mind to be in abject terror and still croak out “What is it, Lord?”
And then, after the angel speaks and departed, Cornelius immediately calls servants (probably trusted guys) and a “devout soldier” (a brother pursuing God of sorts). Cornelius has the presence of mind to be able to relate what just happened with the angel and to give instructions to go get Peter from Joppa.
I think about stuff like this: Cornelius is a soldier from the Italian Cohort; highly decorated and accomplished. After the initial shock of terror, he recovered well enough to issue detailed instructions to a small group.
How do I handle the little things I am presented with? Do I retain my wits enough to be able to: Remember what I am told and; repeat it enough to give actionable instructions—either to myself or to others? Am I attentive enough to relate what I was told?
Here’s a good example about me: “Boy that was a great sermon today. I was sooooo moved and inspired!” “What was the sermon about; what part of it moooooved you?” “I don’t quite remember but I know I got excited.”
How shallow I am. If I act like this on a Sunday that I am expecting, what would happen if an angel just popped in and said “Hi. You have been noticed for your works. I would like to talk to you a moment…” Yeah, like that would happen because of my works.
Lord God: Look—I am not asking for an angelic visitation. But what I do bring before you is my known shortness of attention span. I have heard it said about the sin of Israel was “They soon forgot.” I don’t want to forget. I don’t want my relationship with You defined by my inability to pay attention. I want to overcome this horrible habit by Your intervention and my intentional battle with it. Show me, O God, how to discipline myself to pay attention, to remember what You say, to hear Your Whisper coherently in the morning watches, the noon meal, the drive home, prior to laying my head on the pillow.
And remember. Amen.